A red card changes everything | 1987
I was playing for the England under 18s football team but I happened to get sent off for my local side Old Farnhamians which meant I was suspended for an international match in Scotland. The manager rang me and wanted me to go to Hamilton to talk about my disciplinary record. I was gutted, I wanted to play in the football match so I turned around and said ‘don’t worry about it, I’ll go and have a net’. The same summer I signed for Surrey. I don’t have any regrets.
THE FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP TON
115 | Hampshire v Surrey, County Championship, Basingstoke, 1989
I got my first County Championship century in my second year in the first team. I had made a few appearances the year before but I batted lower down the order and bowled a bit. This particular knock came against an attack featuring Malcolm Marshall so it gave me a certain amount of confidence.
THE SLUMP IN FORM
0 & 0 | Essex v Surrey, County Championship, Chelmsford, 1990
I had a poor second season with Surrey. I scored about 580 Championship runs and was left out of the team after two pairs in three matches, one at Cheltenham and one at Chelmsford. The first was on my 21st birthday. Four noughts won’t get you a game but fortunately Keith Fletcher picked me for the England A tour to Sri Lanka that winter. I think him giving me a bit of backing and then going away and having a good tour picked me back up again.
THE ENGLAND BOW
6 & 114* | England v Australia, Third Test, Trent Bridge, 1993
I wasn’t having a good Test match and the defining moment may very well have been the rest day. I got tucked up by Merv Hughes in the first innings, caught in the gully for 6, and then dropped Michael Slater. We came to bat again and there was a rest day. I realised I’d been quite tense, and I didn’t want to have that fear of failure, so I just gave it a go. If I wasn’t going to do well I was going to go down on my own terms – my whole mental attitude changed. When I was on 33 a delivery hit me in the nuts and rolled back on the stumps. Had I been out there it could have been so different.
THE LEARNING CURVE
16 & 14 | West Indies v England, First Test, Kingston, 1994
The 1994 tour in West Indies changed me as a player. It was really tough; I got bowled four times in the first two games. I certainly wasn’t the finished article against pace and the pace was very quick. Going on that tour really made me realize that I had to have an attacking game against fast bowling, not just a survival game.
THE SECOND TEST TON
123 | Australia v England, Fifth Test, Perth, 1995
My century in Perth was special. I’d been in the England team for a long time and I had about 16 fifties and one hundred in my Test career, so the press were giving me a bit of jip about not converting. It was great to be able to do it in Australia – on their bounciest pitch – against a decent attack. That gave me a lot of confidence.
THE WIN IN THE DARK
18 & 64* | Pakistan v England, Third Test, Karachi, 2000
Karachi in the dark was fantastic. That whole subcontinent winter stands out for me, beating Pakistan in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. If you gave me the 64* in Karachi or the 118 in Lahore, the 64* would win every time. The century was in a drawn game, the 64* to win in those sorts of circumstances was superb. Anything I did when the team won always stood out that bit more.
THE HARDEST HUNDRED
113 & 32* | Sri Lanka v England, Third Test, Colombo, 2001
The innings in Colombo when we beat Sri Lanka was really tough. I got a century and 32* and from a physical point of view it was my hardest hundred and probably my best. Physically that was shattering, the temperatures were hot and we had to win the Test to win the series. There was a lot of shit going on during the game; bad umpires, bad player behaviour and it became a bit of a grudge match.
THE COMEBACK KID
124 | England v South Africa, Fifth Test, The Oval, 2003
Meeting Amanda, my second wife, was a big moment for me. She encouraged me to get back into cricket and this was the best hundred I ever scored. I hadn’t played for England for a long time and I had all the issues off the field. I was worried about whether I was still good enough. It was on my home ground, it was the last Test match of the summer, my mate Nasser had conveniently broken his toe to give me a chance and I probably had one crack at it. If I hadn’t scored runs I doubt I would have got back into the England team and that would have been the end of it. So I was very fortunate to actually get the opportunity. It was the most nervous I’ve ever been, I actually felt sick, but I managed to get it right when I crossed the rope. I batted like a bag of spanners the night before but it came together the next day.
THE (WEST) INDIAN SUMMER
119* | West Indies v England, Third Test, Bridgetown, 2004
Barbados was one of my favourite grounds. I scored two hundreds there, which is great because it’s a brilliant place to play with so many English fans. Probably my favourite knock there was on my last tour of the Caribbean. Wickets were falling around me and I managed to get a hundred, then Matthew Hoggard got a hat-trick and we won the series. Having taken so many beatings from the West Indies, that was fantastic.